posted 2011-02-09 13:30:07

83rd Annual Academy Award Nominations

83rd Annual Academy Award Nominations

Who’s winning, who’s not, and who got the short end of the stick

Daniel Taveras

Contributing Writer

For every film in consideration for an Academy Award, the start of the calendar year feels like a prolonged stay inside a sealed pressure-cooker. As awards for various pictures pour in from guilds, unions and foreign press, the weight of the Academy Awards crushes them with its world-consuming clout. On Jan. 25, the nominees for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced, giving rise to anguish, joy, and Internet jabberwocky abound.

The most talked about category is Best Picture. Since last year’s jump from five to ten nominees, the importance of a best picture nomination has been diluted and the discussion over which films deserve to be nominated has largely disappeared and shifted completely toward which should win.

This year’s cute comedy-drama The Kids Are All Right rode the same indie-success wave that films like Little Miss Sunshine and An Education did in previous years, but it probably won’t get much further than that. With another fantastic entry in their computer-built catalogue, Pixar’s Toy Story 3 stands as only the third animated film, and Pixar’s second, to get a best picture nomination.

In Spielbergian fashion, Christopher Nolan’s mad “dream within a dream” held the attention of movie-goers and critics alike. Arguably the most popular film nominated, Inception’s well-earned nomination perhaps makes up for The Dark Knight’s snub in 2009, but its lack of late-season buzz hints at another empty-handed year for a Nolan film. Black Swan is the dark horse pick of the category. Darren Aronofsky has chronicled the tortured for years, but Black Swan cut a nerve with its madness-inducing fiction. The only thing keeping it from capturing the award is its brazen and kinetic psychosis, something rarely seen in Oscar winners.

The King’s Speech and The Social Network sit as the two favorites, with 12 nominations for Speech and Social Network being the late-season awards darling for 2010. Though The King’s Speech slightly edges out The Social Network, don’t be surprised if the Facebook boys, David Fincher and all-powerful producer Scott Rudin, pull this one out.

Best Actor and Best Actress come in with two distinct favorites: Colin Firth, who broke from his romantic mold for The King’s Speech, and Natalie Portman for Black Swan. Portman’s performance as a naïve, Dermatillomania-suffering and possibly schizophrenic ballerina skyrockets well beyond any acting abilities she had shown before. Already considered one of the best young actresses today, she put on the performance of a lifetime with a push from director Darren Aronofsky. Portman may never replicate this kind of intensity, and for that, the award should be hers. As for Colin Firth, he performed the difficult task of communicating without the ability to do so. He’s simultaneously stubborn and vulnerable, and more genuine because of that.

The Academy took the most chances with the supporting actor category, and in this instance, may have gotten it wrong. Andrew Garfield’s turn as betrayed best friend Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network was one of the breakout performances of the year. His exclusion paved the way for the likes of John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) and Jeremy Renner (The Town). Hawkes’ performance was morbid and terrifying, but he received too little screen time. First-time Oscar nominee Christian Bale will likely win the category. If a bit over the top, his transformation into a crack-addled former fighter is the flashiest and best supporting performance of the year. Supporting Actress is a fairly weak category with The Fighter holding two of the five spots. Of the two, Melissa Leo has the best shot at the award.

Christopher Nolan’s snub for a nomination in the Best Director category is the most egregious of the year. Inception was a visual marvel, pushing the ability of special effects without relying on CGI.  Nolan’s delicacy as a filmmaker kept the spider web plot in place, rooting a film that in less-able hands would confuse the viewer endlessly. Though fabulous filmmakers, the Coen Brothers’ best work lies elsewhere, and their nomination for True Grit exposes the academy’s unflinching admiration for their pictures rather than a proper award. The remaining Best Director nominations are well-deserved, with Aronofsky and Tom Hooper netting their firsts. The easily overlooked Hooper flexed his visual muscle in surprising ways, but David Fincher’s strict, sardonic approach to storytelling may push him to the top.

Along with all the other categories the true winners are really anybody’s guess.  To see who snatches the Oscars, watch the Academy Awards, which airs Sunday, Feb. 27 on ABC.